DaimlerChrysler Launches Dr. Gag Campaign

Here’s a question for Dr. Z: Why are you trying to prevent the news media from covering a high-profile asbestos trial?

DaimlerChrysler, the auto company represented in TV commercials by its chairman, Dieter Zetsche aka “Dr. Z”, moved yesterday for a gag order to stop an Oakland law firm from fielding calls from the press, including Legal Pad’s sister publication The Recorder.

The gag motion targets Rebekah Price, a single mother who is dying of cancer, plus lawyers at Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons, Farrise & Greenwood.

Chrysler fears that, unless restrained, plaintiff will attempt to issue press releases or otherwise communicate with the news media … in an effort to prejudice and influence the jury,” DaimlerChrysler attorney Scott Shepardson wrote in a petition to Alameda County Superior Court. A hearing date for the motion has not been set.

In his request to Judge Kenneth Burr, Shepardson, an associate at Thelen Reid & Priest, said the DaimlerChrysler team had received voice messages from someone “who claimed to be a reporter for the newspaper, The San Francisco Recorder.” That would be us.

DaimlerChrysler is accused of fraud, negligence and liability for Price’s exposure to asbestos, believed to be what caused her to develop a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.

Noting the “Dr. Z” ad campaign, Steven Kazan, managing partner at Kazan, McClain, said the company’s gag motion “would be funny if it weren’t so offensive.”

“They want to shut us up while they spend $2 billion a year on advertising … to mislead the American public and our jury panel into believing that Chrysler’s cars are safe, as though they never contained asbestos,” he said.

Opening statements in the case, Price v. Warner, are scheduled for Monday.

— Matthew Hirsch

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